[Vassily Maximov – Everything is in the Past, 1889 – from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Past ]

For this entry, I look at poems about what is past, memories, reverie, thoughts on times gone by. This blog entry arose from my finding a poem I wrote some time ago and decided to edit. It was one of a group written from pictures hanging in the Manchester Art Gallery. This particular picture was a photograph of old terrace streets being demolished. I grew up in just such a terrace and remember the streets very well. Such a sense of community, security, home. I feel lucky to have that kind of childhood compared to the sterile existence of many new estates. We’ll begin with a poem by the English writer and illustrator, Thomas Hood. Hood reminds me of days of innocence and uncomplicated joy in this piece:

I Remember, I Remember

I remember, I remember
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon
Nor brought too long a day;
But now, I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away.

I remember, I remember,
The roses, red and white,
The vi’lets, and the lily-cups,
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birthday,—
The tree is living yet!

I remember, I remember,
Where I was used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then,
That is so heavy now,
And summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow!

I remember, I remember,
The fir trees dark and high;
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky:
It was a childish ignorance,
But now ’tis little joy
To know I’m farther off from heav’n
Than when I was a boy.

Thomas Hood, 1799 – 1845


[Rope swing in the woods – from: https://blog.rowleygallery.co.uk/heavens-rope-swing/ ]

I remember the sheer joy of finding an old rope hung from a tree in the woods. Even now, there is an almost irresistible attraction to swings. There is no age limit to enjoying swinging from trees! This leads nicely into my own piece, mentioned above. Inspired by a photograph in Manchester Art Gallery. It was such a joyful time, a time when you knew most people in the street and they knew you. A time when you could play in the street with no dangers. Many such places were demolished and the residents moved to tower blocks where values of community suffered. This poem is a little recital of memories from those happy times.

Pictures at an exhibition

Half-ruined house, torn down memories
kids sat in the street, with the dog.
Dirty faces, eagerly staring,
at changes all around them

Young minds not burdened by memories,
to be thrown away with the bricks
Older faces worrying, what will be?
Streets going fast, no trace left, 
of your birthplace, your home. 

The little ones run for the ginnel, 
with the dog. For the sound of a bike.
A gleaming, great BSA.
Begging for a short ride, 
perched on the tank,

as Dad comes home, from the Saturday shift.
Fish and chips waiting, for dog and us.
Saturday treat, and Mum’s day off.
TV on, for Dad’s betting choices, 
football results, checking the pools.

Cheese for tea, melted in the oven. 
Spread over bread as we hide,
from Doctor Who battling Daleks.
Cups of tea, shared with dog. Our home.
Till they knock us down, and disperse our tribe

Glen Proctor


[Junction of Barnard Street and George Street, Thornaby-on-Tees – from: https://rememberingthornaby.wordpress.com ]

Sound file of me reading my poem:


I’m going to finish this delve into the past with a wonderful poem by Douglas Dunn. I had the huge pleasure and honour to sit and listen to Douglas talk about his life and work. A magical afternoon where he also recited some of his poetry including this piece. The poem appeared in his early collection, ‘Terry Street’. I strongly urge everyone to get hold of this work and read it! 

A Removal from Terry Street

On a squeaking cart, they push the usual stuff,
A mattress, bed ends, cups, carpets, chairs,
Four paperback westerns. Two whistling youths
In surplus US Army battle-jackets
Remove their sister’s goods. Her husband
Follows, carrying on his shoulders the son
Whose mischief we are glad to see removed,
And pushing, of all things, a lawnmower.
There is no grass in Terry Street. The worms
Come up cracks in concrete yards in moonlight.
That man, I wish him well. I wish him grass.

Douglas Dunn, 1942 –


[Old handcart, moving home – from: http://helengeary.com/moving-to-141/ ]


[Terraced houses in East London – from: https://www.findmypast.co.uk/1939register/the-1930s-home/ ]


4 thoughts on “The Past

  1. Wonderful poem by you Glen! The melted cheese on bread must be a wonderful memory indeed. Great handcart illustration too. Sorry for the late reply to a wonderful December blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A great blog post Glen, and your poem took me right back to the 70s. My dad and I watched the snooker and mum would bring us fish and chips when she was back from the local whist drive. I wonder if they have any of those anymore! I love the last line of Removal – I wish him grass. Oh, and you do have a fine poet voice.

    Liked by 1 person

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